Vital Signs

No-Fault Citizenship

The United States has bestowed upon 3.1 million persons the new designation of "lawful" in place of "illegal aliens," which is what they were called when they arrived in our midst. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 attempts to right our mutual difficulty by putting these immigrants in line to become permanent resident aliens or even citizens.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has announced the regulations to govern Phase II of this process, already having enrolled them on the books. By October 1994, either these persons will have taken the next step toward permanent residence, or, having failed to comply, will have been subjected to deportation proceedings. The key is preparing them to make that next step forward or backward.

The resident test partly determines the future, and the INS has published a list of 100 questions concerning American history and government, some selected number of which must be passed, in English. This test, and the regulations governing the next phase in the life of our newest prospective Americans, is a peculiar manifestation of our times. Reflecting the compromise out of which came the amnesty for those who had jumped the line to enter the U.S., these INS regulations mirror what citizenship means in the present Republic. Prerequisite to taking the test an illegal must show evidence of continuing capacity to provide for his material needs as well...

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